The timing of the release of the trailer for The Innocence of Muslims, a low-budget movie insulting the Prophet Mohammed, on YouTube is no mere coincidence. The date of September 11 was deliberately selected, because of its symbolic association to Muslims by those that wrongly and ridiculously perceive the 9/11 attacks as a crime collectively committed by all those practicing Islam. The insulting movie’s aims were to incite hatred and divisions by widening the gap between the so-called Western and Muslim Worlds.
The release of the movie is not only tied to creating divisions in the world, but is also tied to warmongering against Iran and to an internal conflict over foreign policy inside the United States itself. Israel plays a key role in the internal divide among US elites and the antagonism against Tehran too. Any analyses of the Israeli role should not be conducted solely on the basis of a national analysis where Israel and the US are separate, but should also be formulated on the basis of a trans-national analysis that recognizes that there are alliances created among various groups of national elites that transcend national boundaries.
A Colonial Discourse: The War of the so-called «Civilize Man» against the «Savages»
It is not a coincidence that a massive Islamophobic advertisement campaign, tied to those supporting the continued occupation of Palestinian land and a US-Israeli war against Iran, has been underway and intensifying in close coordination with the YouTube video. All this represents a public relations siege against Muslims. In summary this public relations campaigns is intent on reshaping the Middle East.
Around the United States there are now public notices on buses, in subways, and billboards saying the following: «IN ANY WAR BETWEEN THE CIVILIZED MAN AND THE SAVAGE, SUPPORT THE CIVILIZED MAN. SUPPORT ISRAEL. DEFEAT JIHAD». This slogan is a re-enactment of the discourse of the colonial era about the «civilized man» taming the native «savage» in the wildernesses of far off places like Africa and Polynesia. It showcases the colonial justifications of a bygone era that seeks to de-humanize specific groups to legitimize their oppression, marginalization, and murder by Western European colonial powers. In this case the Muslims are «the savage» and the «civilized man» is the Israeli. What the advertisement means by «defeat jihad» is «defeat the Muslims» as well as «those Arabs opposing Israel and Iran».
The anti-Muslim slogans in the US are paid for by Pamela Geller’s self described «pro-Israel» American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI). The AFDI says that the messages are not Islamophobic, but are what they call doses of «Islamorealism». Geller is well known for saying that Islam inspired Adolph Hitler and the Nazis in Germany and for her campaign to oppose the building of a mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center in New York City.
Not only are the AFDI public notices narrow-minded and misconstrued, but they incorrectly portray the antagonisms between Israel and the Arabs and Iranians as a religious issue or struggle in the form of Israel versus Muslims. It is also worth noting that only the Arabs and Iranians are portrayed in religious terms, while Israel is not portrayed in religious terms. Although religion does play a role in the tensions, the antagonisms between Israel and the rest of the Middle East are really national issues and not religious conflicts. Because of its occupation and wars, Israel is equally at odds with Christian, Muslim, Druze, agnostic, and atheist Palestinians, Lebanese, and Syrians alike. Its tensions with Iran are based on Iranian support for groups opposing Israel’s occupation and the Iranian nuclear energy program, which means that Iranian-Israeli tensions are not really religious either. All the talk about «supporting Israel against jihad» is the theatrics of a public relations stunt that means support «Israel against the Arabs and Iranians». This ultimately means support war and a «clash of civilizations».
The tensions that the Muslim protests ignited had existed for a long time, because of US policies in the Middle East that include the support and arming of dictatorships and continued support for Israel’s wars. As well as its timing, what is suspect about the initial protests are some of the organizations involved, the speed that the awareness about the YouTube movie took place, and the instantaneous mobilization of the protests. Derogatory portrayals of the Prophet Mohammed are neither new nor rare either. In fact worse things about the Prophet Mohammed go unnoticed. This was not a phenomenon that took place because of the internet and social media. For the most part, the Muslim protests were originally ignited by the clients of Washington’s own Al-Saud allies. The House of Saud is the backer and financer of the so-called Salafist groups in Egypt, Libya, and Syria; most the things these groups do, including the protests they organized, in their respective countries are linked to Riyadh in some way or another.
Netanyahu and the Waters of the Fountain of Hate
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2012 speech to the United Nations is perfectly aligned with these events. In his speech Netanyahu described the protests in the Middle East as part of a battle between «modernity» and «medievalism» and directly referred to the storming of the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi to validate his argument. In reality, the thinly veiled calls for conflict that Netanyahu promoted through his speech are the real medievalism. His demands are a regression towards the clashes and crusades of medieval times in Europe that were purely formed on the basis of identity and faith, which saw the persecution of unorthodox Christian views, the repression of European Jewry, and the launching of the crusades against Eastern Christians and Muslims alike.
While speaking to the United Nations, the Israeli leader then moved on to demand confrontation with Israel’s archenemy Iran, warning of an apocalypse. He boldly equated Iran with a «nuclear-armed Al-Qaeda». In the course of his speech Netanyahu also warned that Iran was nearing a point where Tehran would be able to completely put together a nuclear bomb through its civilian nuclear enrichment program. The Israeli leader, however, intentionally neglected to mention that there are no diversions of Iranian enriched uranium, all of Iran’s enriched uranium is accounted for by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and when the enriched uranium is spent that it is sent to Russia.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, the anti-Muslim advertisements, and the YouTube video that has instigated worldwide Muslim protests all come from the same underlying channel, which is eager for a «clash of civilizations». In the same time frame, the US Congress with the support of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has also pushed ahead with legislation that brings the US closer to confrontation with Iran and its allies. Moreover, the Iranian Embassy in Canada was closed by the Canadian federal government in Ottawa earlier in what some think is linked to an upcoming confrontation with Iran. The breaking of Canadian-Iranian diplomatic ties has earned Canada’s Prime Steven Harper the World Statesman of the Year Award from Rabbi Arthur Schneier’s Appeal of Conscience Foundation, which is heavily supportive of Israeli interests.
The attacks on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi are also being used to portray Muslims as «savages» by those who have an interest in promoting a «clash of civilizations». The US government and its intelligence services now admit that they knew that their consulate in Benghazi and Ambassador Christopher Stevens were in danger of an attack, but never took any of the necessary steps to increase security. The US has also used this and the protests against the YouTube film as an excuse to deploy military units into Libya and Yemen. The rumours being disseminated that Ambassador Stevens was tortured in the streets of Benghazi by militant Muslims are meant to further stoke the fire. The groups making these claims support US militarism, especially against the so-called «savage» Muslims, and are making these claims on the basis of pictures of Ambassador Stevens being dragged out of the burning US consulate.
Realists versus Neo-Cons: US Foreign Policy Struggle?
What all these things encompass is a behind the scenes battle amongst members of the US establishment about the direction of US foreign policy. The Israeli political establishment is part of this internal US battle. The tensions between Obama and Netanyahu are indicative of the imperial politics of a US system of empire. Although an empire’s provinces have their own separate politics that are removed from the imperial capital’s politics, the provinces play roles in shaping the imperial capital’s politics through their actions, interference, support, and lobbying. This is why Netanyahu has inserted himself into the US presidential elections as an ally of the neo-con’s puppet candidate Mitt Romney.
Reportedly, tensions have been building between Netanyahu and the Obama Administration over an attack on Iran. These Israeli-US tensions are symptomatic of the foreign policy struggle inside Washington, DC. On the other hand Netanyahu’s domestic political opponents in Israel, like Shaul Mofaz and the Kadima Party, have sided with President Obama against Netanyahu and his neo-con allies. In the last few months a large segment of the Israeli political and military establishment, from President Shimon Peres to Israel’s military and intelligence establishments, have warned against the war that Netanyahu and Ehud Barack want to launch against Iran. So we can see that the issue is not one where Israel is facing off against the US; this is a case of an alliance of US and Israeli leaders facing off against another group of US and Israeli leaders in a system of imperial politics where Israel, perhaps the US empire’s principal province, plays an important role in the imperial capital’s policies.
What is fuelling this foreign policy struggle inside the United States is a series of failures and frustration. The US and its allies have failed to oust the Syrian government. Washington has failed to intimidate Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, and their allies.
The US establishment is at odds with itself on how to deal with the Iranians. Dealing with Iran is necessary for the continuation of the US push into Eurasia and ultimately the encirclement of the Chinese. Some see the outcome of the antagonism between Tehran and Washington as a zero-sum game, where time is running out for the United States. If Washington does not deal with Iran soon, it will not be able to do so in the future when the US is weaker.
The US is a declining superpower that is getting weaker by the day. Although America is increasingly militarizing, in a few years its military power will not be able to challenge China and Russia combined. The Russians and Chinese will eventually catch up to the US militarily while spending far less. America’s vassals will slowly begin to turn their backs on the US, as realize that the empire of the US is finished. The sun is literally setting for America’s day as a global superpower.
This has resulted in a struggle between the neo-cons and realists on how to deal with Iran and the so-called Muslim World. The neo-cons and their Likud allies favour confrontation as a means of achieving their imperial foreign policy aims. Although Obama and the realists will also use violence and war to achieve their foreign policy aims and have the same objectives as the neo-cons, their methodology is different. The realists prefer to use war more sparingly. The realists want to coerce Iran, while the neo-cons want to confront Iran. Simply stated, Obama and the realists want to co-opt and manipulate the Muslims, like realist Brzezinski did in Afghanistan against the Soviets and Obama has done in Libya against Qaddafi, while Mitt Romney, Netanyahu, and the neo-cons want a «clash of civilizations». The costs of confrontation, however, are much too risky and high and Washington’s realist circles realize this. This is why they prefer to coerce Iran into submission instead of initiating a direct confrontation.
Capitalize on the Animosity
Politics cannot be de-linked from the Muslim protests either. Although small groups started the original protests against The Innocence of Muslims, the protests have now grown and have taken root across most a vast spectrum of Muslims. Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have held protests in Lebanon. The Muslim Brotherhood has done the same in Egypt. In Iraq and Turkey the movie has been condemned and it has been banned in Russia. While in Pakistan anything symbolic of the US has been targeted.
The Iranian government is also making all types of statements against the movie and opportunistically using the event to gain political points against the US. Tehran is using the resentment and rage against the movie to form a counter-weight to the confessional animosity that the US and its allies have been promoting between Shiites and Sunnis with the aim of destabilizing Iran and its allies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Iran is taking these calculated steps to try to create «Muslim unity» against a common enemy at the expense of Washington. As a defensive strategy the Iranians have also tried to further capitalize on the tensions by increasing the bounty on the life of Salmon Rushdie, the author that wrote a book defaming the Prophet Mohammed, to further galvanize the tensions between Muslims and the US.
The Muslim protests are being used to influence presidential politics inside the US. The Republicans and neo-cons are trying to capitalize on the protests to justify militarism and animosity towards the Muslim World and to push the Obama Administration aside. They have said Obama is too soft and appeasing America’s enemies. These divisions are probably playing themselves out within the military and intelligence establishments of the US too.
Ultimately, all these actions will create more divisions in the world. In respect to the Muslims, based on the narratives of the Prophet Mohammed’s life he would tell those who call themselves his followers to ignore and forgive those behind the silly film. According to the narratives of his life, the Prophet Mohammed had seen much worse things in his life and forgave them. Moreover, the priorities of many Muslims can be questioned, because they will protest over a silly film that the Prophet Mohammed would tell them to ignore while they will not protest against occupation or about the killing of innocent civilians in Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Pakistan by US aerial drones. The protests have also inadvertently given the movie increased and priceless publicity and attention.
Russia understands the game being played out, especially in context of its experience in the Caucasus, and has been very cautious. The Russian Federation has much to lose in a «clash of civilizations» scenario that seeks to create ethnic and religious tensions inside Russia and the post-Soviet space. The protest «punk prayer» inside the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour by Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich has to be thrown into this equation too, because it represents an attack on the traditional values of Russia that are under attack as part of this «clash of civilizations». There have already been attempts to create tensions amongst Russian Muslims and Russian officials have taken steps not to get dragged into the movie fiasco by preventing its screening in Russia.
As the US declines, the important question is will the US go out silently or with violence and war linked to a «clash of civilizations». If US elites opt for the latter option, the decline of the United States can be compared to a sinking ship in the ocean that will pull whatever is in the waters near it down too… This will have devastating effects for US allies, rivals, and adversaries alike. This is why it is important for all those working for peace inside the United States to ensure that the militaristic aspects of US foreign policy are neutralized. By the same token all those committed to peace around the world also need to dispel the myths that support a «clash of civilizations» paradigm of the world.